Poland, Australia, Japan could join England's World Cup boycott if Russia was behind attempted murder of...

England could organise a co-ordinated boycott of the football World Cup if it emerges that Russia was behind the attempted murder of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.

Australia, Poland and Japan could join England in boycotting the World Cup if detectives conclude Russia was behind the poisoning the of ex-Russian agent in Salisbury.

Ministers have discussed stopping senior politicians and officials from attending the tournament, or even withdrawing the entire England squad, a move which could see England banned from subsequent tournaments such as the 2022 World Cup. 

'A boycott of the World Cup is definitely one of the options on the cards,' a defence source told The Times.

'A wide range of options are being discussed,' the senior Whitehall source said. 

The World Cup, which is widely viewed as a chance for Mr Putin to show Russian strength on an international stage, kicks off on June 14.

The source added that the UK's response need to be measured and effective.

The case for an England boycott has been supported by Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs select committee, and Chris Bryant, chairman of the all-party Parliamentary Russia Group.

Mr Tugendhat said ministers should urge allies to join a coordinated boycott of the World Cup, as part of a wider package of reprisals against the Putin regime.

He said it was 'extraordinary' the tournament was being held in a country that used 'murder as an instrument of state policy', and said a boycott should be 'kept on the table'.

Former Labour minister Chris Bryant said it would be 'very difficult' for the England football team to compete in the event if Moscow is proved to be linked to the attack.

Dr Calder Walton of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government said an England boycott of this summer's World Cup would prevent Putin from getting away with attacks on British soil.

The British Government cannot allow Putin to escape reprisals over the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, in the way he did when Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London in 2006, Watson argued.

But a boycott could see England banned from the Qatar 2022 World Cup. It would breach rules which state 'all participating associations must play all of their matches until eliminated from the World Cup'.

Article 6 of the same rules states a withdrawing nation could face sanctions 'including the expulsion of the association concerned from subsequent FIFA competitions'. 

It took 10 years for an inquest to rule that Litvinenko was probably killed on the Kremlin's orders.

Dr Walton said: 'There are grounds to say that much more must be done this time [if Putin is found to be behind the attack].

'A boycott is possibly the kind of statement needed. There's a good argument [to say that England's participation in the World Cup] validates Putin and gives him credibility.'

Dr Walton said a more potent course of action may be sanctions, cutting off diplomatic ties and freezing of Russian assets in the UK. 

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